Three days earlier than headlining U.F.C. 254 in Abu Dhabi, the primary attraction, Khabib Nurmagomedov, instructed reporters he deliberate to retire because the undefeated, undisputed U.F.C. light-weight champion.
He appeared to imply he’d make that transfer finally.
It seems he meant to do it instantly.
He wanted lower than two rounds on Saturday evening to dispatch a hard-punching American challenger, Justin Gaethje, in the primary occasion of a struggle card that the U.F.C. anticipated to threaten pay-per-view information by way of viewership.
Nurmagomedov’s win unified the U.F.C.’s light-weight title, solidified his place because the group’s prime fighter, and was his first win after the dying of his father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
After his victory, Nurmagomedov took the microphone throughout a post-fight interview and mentioned he was leaving the game.
“No approach I’m going to return right here with out my father,” he mentioned.
Nurmagomedov’s emphatic win over Gaethje was the in-competition high-point of a tumultuous 2020 for blended martial arts.
He began the 12 months slated to face Tony Ferguson in April on the Barclays Heart in Brooklyn, however the card was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the U.F.C. moved it will definitely to Jacksonville, Fla. With Nurmagomedov unable to return to the USA from Russia due to pandemic journey restrictions, Gaethje changed him as Ferguson’s opponent, then pounded out a bloody, one-sided, five-round technical knockout win.
Then in July, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died of Covid-19 issues.
Nonetheless, Nurmagomedov agreed to face Gaethje in a tantalizing matchup of types. Nurmagomedov is a relentless wrestler who can be adept with punches and kicks, whereas Gaethje’s high-impact putting earned him the nickname “The Spotlight.”
After a cautious first minute of their struggle, Nurmagomedov utilized stress, absorbing heavy blows from Gaethje as the worth of wading shut sufficient to seize his opponent. Gaethje retreated, but in addition unloaded with full energy, hoping to offer himself area to function. Close to the tip of the primary spherical, Nurmagomedov dragged Gaethje to the bottom.
Within the second, Gaethje landed a tough kick to Nurmagomedov’s thigh. When he tried one other, Nurmagomedov grabbed his foot and mauled Gaethje. He wrapped himself across the challenger and finally knotted his legs round Gaethje’s neck, locking him in a triangle choke that he couldn’t escape. Gaethje submitted barely two minutes into the spherical.
The win earned Nurmagomedov a money bonus for the very best efficiency of the evening, and afterward he laid his gloves on the canvas and defined that he and his mom agreed he ought to retire.
“I promised her it was going to be my final struggle,” he mentioned. “I’ve to observe this.”
Dana White, the U.F.C. president, instructed a post-fight information convention that he didn’t begrudge Nurmagomedov his retirement.
“What he’s been by way of, we’re all fortunate we obtained to see him struggle tonight,” mentioned White, who additionally revealed that Nurmagomedov competed with damaged bones in his foot. “He’s one of many hardest folks on the planet.”
After all, different U.F.C. retirements have proved non permanent.
The longtime light-heavyweight champion Randy Couture as soon as retired within the octagon, solely to return. And after the Could 9 occasion in Jacksonville, the bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo introduced his personal retirement, however has mentioned he would struggle once more for the best amount of cash.
Nurmagomedov is in line for giant paydays if he retains combating.
Earlier this month, he expressed curiosity in a superfight with the U.F.C. welterweight legend Georges St-Pierre, who’s presently retired.
And in January, after Conor McGregor defeated Donald Cerrone, the U.F.C. president Dana White spoke brazenly of pairing him with Nurmagomedov in a repeat of their high-grossing grudge match, which ended with a melee within the stands. White mentioned a struggle of that dimension might land on the O2 Area in London, or AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
McGregor is presently scheduled to fulfill Dustin Poirier in January, and Nurmagomedov mentioned neither man might change his thoughts about retiring.
“Dustin and Conor are going to struggle in January. I choked out each of them,” Nurmagomedov mentioned. “I’m not .”